Snakes join RSPB wildlife survey

The RSPB will be asking members of the public to keep their eyes peeled for grass snakes and slow worms, as well as birds and other wildlife, during the next Big Garden Birdwatch on 24th and 25th January 2015.

grass snake, RSPB

Grass snake in Leicestershire by Danny Green, RSPB

More than half a million people are expected to take part in the survey, which provides conservationists with valuable information about the number of birds wintering in British gardens and the species that are in decline, such as house sparrows, greenfinches and starlings.

Last January, for the first time, the RSPB asked participants to note other animals visiting their gardens, including badgers, hedgehogs, deer and foxes, to help the charity and its conservation partners build up an overall picture of just how important gardens are as wildlife havens.

slow worm by Ben Andrew, RSPB

Slow worm by Ben Andrew, RSPB

Now in its 36th year, the survey has added grass snakes and slow worms to the list of species to look out for. However, as these creatures can be harder to spot than birds, participants simply have to indicate whether or not they have ever seen them in their gardens, at any time of year, and not just during the Big Garden Birdwatch hour.

The citizen science project is part of the RSPB’s Giving Nature a Home campaign, which encourages people to support wildlife in their gardens in various ways, such as planting bee and butterfly-friendly plants, putting up nestboxes or creating a pond.

“Adding slow worms and grass snakes to this year’s survey is a big step towards capturing more data to help us and our partners identify how the distribution of garden wildlife may have changed amongst a variety of species in a few years’ time,” commented Daniel Hayhow, RSPB conservation scientist. “Hopefully, the fact that more people are helping to give nature a home in their gardens and outside spaces will mean we see improvements rather than declines.”

starling

Starling numbers are down. Photo by Ray Kennedy, RSPB

Participants can register to take part in the Big Garden Birdwatch from 15th December 2014 at www.rspb.org.uk/birdwatch

To find out more about giving wildlife a home visit www.rspb.org.uk/homes 

 

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Charlotte Rixon

A freelance nature, wildlife and environmental writer, journalist and blogger. Website: clippings.me/charlotterixon Twitter: @CharlotteRixon
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